Exclusive: Edelman UK announces triumvirate of women to lead healthcare practice

Edelman UK has named a new leadership team for its healthcare practice comprising three women, PRWeek can reveal.

Edelman UK's new healthcare leadership team (L-R): Ashlea Reece, Eleanor Read and Angela Mahaney
Edelman UK's new healthcare leadership team (L-R): Ashlea Reece, Eleanor Read and Angela Mahaney

The trio are Angela Mahaney, Ashlea Reece and Eleanor Read. They are, collectively, co-leads for the agency’s healthcare team, which encompasses comms, health policy and medical education.

The healthcare division will be overseen by Edelman general manager Justin Westcott, who also has oversight of the agency’s tech division.

Mahaney will lead on client experience while Read will lead business strategy for the division.

Reece, meanwhile, has responsibility for operations including deploying the right mix of staff on client accounts, as well as staff progression and retention.

Between them, the women have worked at Edelman UK for a total of 25 years.

They replace the division’s former managing director, Kate Hawker, who left earlier this year after two years with the agency.

Mahaney

Mahaney joined Edelman as an associate director in 2014, rising to become senior director of health brands before her latest promotion.

She began her comms career in Los Angeles at The Rogers Group, now Finn Partners, leaving as a senior account executive. Mahaney was later part of the leadership team at Chandler Chicco Agency in Los Angeles and London followed, by Biosector2 in New York both of which are now owned by Syneos Health. 

Reece

Reece has been with Edelman UK for nearly 10 years, having joined as a senior account director and later rising to the role of deputy managing director of operations in healthcare. She started her healthcare career at Ruder Finn as an account executive and rose to become a senior account manager.

Read

Read, who has a PhD in nutrition, has been with Edelman for 11 years, starting with the agency as a medical writer and moving up through the ranks via roles as director and senior director of science strategy. She started her career in healthcare as an editor for medical information service IMS Health before moving to Envision Pharma as a medical writer.

Vision for the healthcare practice

Commenting on their vision for the UK healthcare practice under their leadership, Read told PRWeek: "It is to deliver cutting-edge work for our clients, which is disruptive and innovative. We are always looking to evolve the business and we will continue to do so."

Talent development and retention

Reece will look at increasing staff retention within the 50-strong dedicated healthcare team by offering "robust career paths".

She said: "I want people to see how they can have a future here. All three of us [co-leads] are different personality types and I want the team to see – through us – how they can progress through the business in different ways."

Mahaney added: "Before I was at Edelman, I didn’t realise what career paths meant. People don’t have to come from operations [to progress]; they can come through via different routes, such as the 'client-relationships' path."

The new leaders said they were conscious of the reasons why staff in the "female-heavy" healthcare comms sector left their jobs.

Read said: "People leave to have a family and [the industry] has lost a lot of senior talent that way."

To counter the effects of life choices on staff retention, Reece intends to promote flexible working opportunities, including different start and finish times and home-working days, as well as attempting to tackle the gender pay gap.

In 2018, Edelman UK’s gender pay gap was 10.36 per cent on a median basis, and 21.33 per cent as a mean average, in favour of men.

Trends in healthcare comms

Mahaney, Read and Reece identified several emerging trends in healthcare comms.

Mahaney pointed to clients increasingly asking for digital transformation services, including helping pharma firms to recruit new talent via digital methods.

Reece said internal comms work, or 'employee empowerment', was not being delivered as well as it could be in the pharma sector.

And Read said there had been an evolution in healthcare, which had seen it change from a top-down service in which health professionals delivered patient care, to one in which patients, empowered by their own research, were demanding the most effective treatments.

She added: "I think also that the market space for pharma and life sciences has become crowded. We don’t have blockbuster drugs anymore; we have ones which deliver incremental benefits, so to get cut-through we have to be disruptive with our campaigns."

Clients

Edelman UK’s healthcare clients include pharma giants Pfizer, AstraZeneca, J&J/Janssen and Novo Nordisk, as well as Takeda. Three of the agency’s top 10 clients are within the healthcare space.


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